New Funding Announced to Fight Prescription Drug Abuse Statewide

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CCNC's Community-based approach to chronic pain receives $2.6M in support from the State of North Carolina and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust

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This new funding will allow us to take the Wilkes County model statewide. The strength of Project Lazarus lies in the commitment of local stakeholders and state organizations willing to take on the responsibility of improving care.

Prescription drug overdoses have reached epidemic proportions in North Carolina and across the nation. In response to that challenge, Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC) today announced a $2.6 million investment in Project Lazarus, a statewide program aimed at addressing chronic pain issues and combating prescription drug abuse. Funding from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and the N.C. Office of Rural Health and Community Care will allow CCNC to implement a community-based approach to the problem over the next two years. Modeled after a highly successful pilot program in Wilkes County, the statewide Project Lazarus program will assist North Carolina providers in getting the appropriate pain control medication to patients who need it while minimizing the risk of addiction – and dealing effectively with dependence issues that develop.

CCNC aims to stem the tide of prescription drug overdoses that have reached staggering numbers in recent years. Unintentional poisoning deaths in North Carolina now equal deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents, a grim and significant milestone. According to a report by the Institute of Medicine, the national cost of treating chronic pain may be as much as $635 billion, and long-term pain impacts more patients in the U.S. than heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined.

Project Lazarus, a community-based approach to reducing the overuse and misuse of opioids, was launched in Wilkes County in 2008 to address the particularly high rates of overdose deaths in that region. Northwest Community Care Network, one of CCNC’s 14 regional provider networks, and Fred Brason II of Project Lazarus led a broad coalition of community stakeholders that included emergency room physicians, local hospitals, primary care doctors, faith-based programs and law enforcement.

Project Lazarus’ results in Wilkes County were stunning, including a drop in the overdose death rate of 69%, a reduction of substance abuse-related Emergency Department admissions of 15.3%, and more than 70% of Wilkes County prescribers registering with the State’s controlled substances drug monitoring program versus a statewide average of 26%.

The Wilkes County experience suggests that with the infrastructure of Community Care of North Carolina and support from county coalitions organized under Project Lazarus, similar results should be attainable statewide. Today’s grants fill in the missing piece of the puzzle: the resources necessary to take the training statewide.

“Support from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and the N.C. Office of Rural Health and Community Care will allow us to take the Wilkes County model statewide,” said L. Allen Dobson, Jr., MD, President and CEO of CCNC. “We would like to thank both funding organizations for providing the resources needed to address this critical public health issue.

“The strength of Project Lazarus lies in the commitment of the stakeholders in state organizations and local communities who are willing to take on the responsibility of improving care for chronic pain patients across North Carolina. Many of these groups are represented here today.”

The $1.3 million investment from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and a matching $1.3 million in public dollars will pay for statewide training in evidence-based approaches to pain management, including provider toolkits tailored for care managers, emergency room physicians and primary care physicians. In addition, CCNC will provide a chronic pain coordinator in each of its 14 regional network locations to work with physicians and others in the effort.

“The Trust is making a major investment in this effort because we believe there’s an opportunity for high impact results – similar to the successful outcomes in Wilkes County – in many of the state’s rural counties and communities,” said Allen Smart, director of the Health Care Division of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. “We are excited to be a part of a public-private partnership that’s committed to addressing this problem at the local, regional and state level in a comprehensive and coordinated way.”

On hand for the announcement were representatives of a number of stakeholders in the Project Lazarus effort, including the NC Medical Society, the NC Hospital Association, The NC College of Emergency Physicians, the NC Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services, the NC Division of Public Health, the U.S. Army and the State Bureau of Investigation.

For more information, please see Project Lazarus on the CCNC website.

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